It’s a homecoming of sorts for newly appointed Humboldt Co-op General Manager, Joe Von Doellen. It’s a return that  he and his wife, Barb, welcome. 

The Von Doellens left Humboldt in September of 1994 to seek fortunes elsewhere. Returning after 28 years is cause for reflection, says the GM.

“Coming back is refreshing, first of all. You never know what it’s like to come back to a community that you grew up in. My wife and I always thought of Humboldt as home. We have four children that were all born here in Humboldt, and we left when they were young. The town has changed considerably, but we’ve been back to visit over those 28 years, so we’ve seen some of those changes.”

Von Doellen left Humboldt for a job with Federated Co-op after spending some time in the meat cutting trade at Modern Meats. His first stop was in Kindersley for a 16 month stint, followed by his first management posting in Rosetown, which lasted 12 years.

It was then off to Altona, Manitoba for a couple of years, explains Von Doellen, followed by multi-year stays in Hudson Bay and Vanderhoof, BC. For the last five and a half years, Von Doellen has been situated with Federated Co-op’s Saskatoon Corporate side, working out of Edmonton. His career has taken him to each western Canadian province; now it’s an exciting return to Saskatchewan and the hometown to carry on the work. 

“I’m a people person,” says Von Doellen. “I enjoy the opportunity to help people develop in their career and their personal life as well. At the corporate level, I didn’t feel you had the opportunity to do that. I’d been looking for an opportunity to get back to retail, manage a larger retail again, and with a group of people that wanted to learn and develop. When Humboldt came up, my wife and I talked about it and thought, why not give it a shot.”

Von Doellen recognizes that it’s a unique situation to be able to return to your career in your hometown after such a span of time. His knowledge of Humboldt will be an undoubted asset when it comes to continuing the community engagement that’s been established by the Co-op in Humboldt and Lanigan over the years. 

“Co-op is community. It’s owned by the members who, for the most part, all live in the communities we serve. So I think it’s really important we give back to the communities. We probably focus more on the youth side of things; the importance of youth in our community is unbelievable. Without youth, you have no future.”

Von Doellen recognizes the contributions that the Humboldt and Lanigan Co-ops have made to community ventures in the past, and he vows that will not change under his leadership. 

“We have a lot of managers that are very involved in the community, and I’m going to encourage more of that. The community is the most important part of it all.”

Von Doellen has been meeting and greeting members in both Lanigan and Humboldt, and he thanks the members for re-introductions. While he’s met old friends, he’s encountered plenty of newer members and he hopes to get to know people better over the coming years. 

“I want to thank them for coming out and supporting us, and I look forward, with my team here, to growing Humboldt Co-op. I really want to make Humboldt Co-op a place to both work and shop, and to be part of the community.”